October 11, 2018
Hello, Chathamites. Happy Thursday!
Your Guide to the Polls
At Wednesday night’s Candidate Forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters, Our Chatham intended on recording the event on Facebook Live. However, upon entry we were told that there would be no photo and video allowed at the public forum.
Bock: We’re a great county. It’s a great place to live, a great place to work if we had more jobs, and a great place to play.
Hales: Chatham is moving forward into the 21st century. We’re in an ideal location and we can take advantage of what’s going on around us, but at the same time hold on to that which is most important to us: our rural character. This is a progressive area seeking to attract workers and businesses and residents who perhaps don’t want to live in urban environments but want to have the same amenities and opportunities of an urbanized area.
2. What should be the role of county government in affordable housing?
Hales: Broadband and affordable housing are at the top of everyone’s list. A lack of both exist in Chatham.
Bock: The major thing the government can do is remove policy barriers to building affordable housing. Not everyone wants to or needs to own a house; they need rental units. The county can continue to support Habitat for Humanity.
3. What’s the county’s role in Jordan Lake / Haw River cleanup?
Bock: Most of this is not done by the county government. But what we can do is work with other counties around us. Looking at the pollution, a lot doesn’t come from Chatham County.
Hales: The condition of contaminants in the Haw River is of high importance. The county does its own testing; the state’s regimen of testing in Jordan Lake is not very robust and has become less robust in past years. We do not have GenX but we have compounds that are similar. Treatment has been stepped up to deal with these contaminants. The Haw River is our resource and we’re concerned about the buffers and some of that is driven by the state.
4. What’s the best way forward for quality education in Chatham?
Hales: I think schools in Chatham are doing a great job. We have to deal with the transportation issue so we can have more exchange between the community college curriculum and K-12 school curriculum. But I think we already meet and exceed expectations most of the time in our schools.
Bock: I also support a partnership between K-12 schools and the community college. During my time as commissioner, we saw there was not enough vocational training. Through a potential initiative called Carolina Works, we would work with the community college so that high school students can attend vocational training with dual enrollment and get a certificate for one of those trades at no cost to the student. I want to set up a separate fund for teachers to get reimbursed for things they buy from their own pocket like copy paper, we could maybe work with nonprofits on that.
5. How can we attract better business and jobs to Chatham?
Bock: Everything else is easier with good paying jobs in the county. I want to build mega-sites to attract major manufacturers, like an automobile plant. I had a part in setting up the mega-site in Siler City, and we’re getting a second one set up in Moncure. People think that Chatham County is not open for business and doesn’t seem open to attracting big industry. The head of the Economic Development Corporation, Kyle Touchstone, told me that he left because the EDC board doesn’t know how to attract major manufacturers; they are scared of what will happen in the wake of such change. Chatham needs commissioners to support drawing a big business here.
Hales: We are encouraging our EDC to continue to market the Moncure mega-site. Marketing to attract an automobile plant isn’t a good idea, that’s a dying industry. The idea that we are bad for business is simply not going by the facts.
6. What can the county do to lessen its footprint and help alleviate climate change? And, what’s going on with fracking?
Hales: The fracking moratorium gives us time to craft an ordinance about the conditions in which fracking can occur in Chatham. Governor Cooper has appointed me to the N.C. Oil and Gas Commission; the appointment still has to go through legislative approval, but I was just notified of this today. As for climate change, we’re working with the Cooperative Extension, the Chatham County Climate Change Committee, and a number of other fronts to try and figure out what we can do.
Bock: Chatham residents do not want fracking. This means the commissioners have every responsibility to prevent fracking. The problem is that some of it is in state hands. The fracking moratorium may or may not help. We need to craft regulations and zoning ordinances that aren’t specifically in place to stop fracking, but as a byproduct can stop fracking. We have to work around state law, which doesn’t allow us to specifically forbid fracking. The biggest contributor to carbon dioxide pollution in Chatham is transportation, so we have to shorten commute times to lessen our footprint. You can shorten commute times by growing jobs in Chatham and making sure people can be closer to home.
7. What do you think about the county’s budget process?
Bock: We have an excellent budgeting process. Our staff have put checks and balances in place to ensure the process is good. There’s a fear in government budgeting that if you don’t spend everything you’ll lose it next year. The key is to shift money around from year to year depending on which departments need it, not to spend unnecessary funds in fear of your departmental budget shrinking next year.
Hales: The budget matters for how we want the county to grow in next 20-25 years.
8. How will you ensure agriculture remains a vital part of the county in 50 years?
Hales: Our comprehensive plan depends on agriculture to be a vital part of this economy. Our farmers are aging, we need to figure out how to encourage young people to take up the calling. Neill Lindley, a candidate for District 4 Chatham Commissioner, was a dairy farmer and now his farm is closed. It was the last dairy farm in Chatham County. We want to find value added to create businesses that use the products that our farmers are growing.
Bock: First of all, I’d like to make a correction to what Ms. Hales said. Lindley’s dairy farm is alive and well, and Lindley’s son is about to take it over and become the 5th generation to own the farm. There are also six dairy farms in Chatham, not just one. What I hear from farmers is that they can’t make enough money. They want to bring in side businesses like a repair shop or woodworking, but the zoning rules don’t allow them to do that. I think farmers need freedom to do on their land what they see is best.
9. What do you both think about having school just four days a week with longer days to save on transportation costs and to give teachers an extra workday?
Bock: There are good solutions out there that can’t be implemented because communities like Chatham can’t make those changes. It’s a state mandate that determines how that can work. If you have county commissioners that want to make these changes, we can inch our way there, but what we need is the freedom to find solutions that might be right for our county and unfortunately we don’t have that freedom.
Hales: I agree with Brian in that the State Board Of Education sets that policy, not us. But, as time goes by there could be additional opportunity for other structures to be considered. We can have the opportunity to work within our own parameters.
10. Do you support county funding for the arts?
Hales: We have an incredible program called Artists in Schools. It started because the Board of Commissioners makes a small grant to the Chatham Arts Council annually. This money is used to bring resident artists into various elementary and middle schools and work with kids to give them a live performance theater experience. The kids participate and learn a lot. It’s great to see how children respond to having someone help guide them to tell their own story. They’re learning how to communicate. The attraction of Chatham County as a magnet for artists is growing.
Bock: Our role needs to be relatively limited in supporting specific businesses. The county has robust system for deciding what money goes to which nonprofit, there’s an application process. The Chatham Arts Council or any other nonprofit must all go through the same process. When you single out a particular segment, you run into challenges. I don’t think it’s necessary to carve in a budget item to support arts. If we can attract major employers, that’s the major sponsor for private funds that goes into arts organizations. We don’t have many types of employers here that can provide that type of money.
11. What are your biggest successes and challenges?
Bock: I get the most satisfaction from helping individuals with using their property in the way they wanted. I don’t feel comfortable making people come before the board asking to do basic things on their property. My goal is to make sure property rights are foremost among us. My biggest challenge was not knowing how government worked or how the budget was done when started as a County Commissioner five years ago. Another challenge is making sure we all get to the same basic goals we all have when we have different ideas of how to get there.
Hales: A huge success was zoning the county. I appreciate property rights, but I believe we live in a county of 60,000 people and growing and that when it comes to your property rights, you have to consider others besides yourself. All you have to do is ask farmers that have wells that went dry because of subdivisions being built down the road.
- “I stand before you as a servant of Chatham County first, last, and always. I am a workhorse, not a show-horse. Put me in the plow and I will work for you.”
- Steered the Comprehensive Land Use Plan
- Helped create a special district for Chatham Park
- Advocates green belt linking trails along rivers
- Believes increasing in county employment is only way to increase revenue for farming families
- Believes in raising money for affordable housing
- Supports the Chatham Promise, which will guarantee two years of free tuition at Central Carolina Community College for any new high school graduate in Chatham County
- Supports work of Human Relations Commission and Hispanic Liason.
- Pushing for state to repair Jordan Lake watershed, the most important watershed in the region.
- Negotiated with Duke Energy to give Chatham an edge in fostering green power.
- Voted to impose the moratorium on fracking
Reives: People shouldn’t have to choose tribes between Democrats and Republicans. Think of how you felt about your neighbors in 2008 and think of how you feel now. At Thanksgiving, you can’t talk about who is running for what because you’re scared that Uncle Larry’s going to talk about the political candidate no one wants to talk about. I’m running because government should be simple, not divisive. Valerie and I are a great delegation and I’m proud to work with her.
1. Verify that you are registered to vote.
2. Friday (tomorrow!) is the deadline to register to vote. Get it done here.
3. Find out where and when you can cast your ballot.
4. Check out the Chatham County sample ballot beforehand.
Notable + Quotable
“Some dangerous things are happening on Friday afternoons outside of Horton Middle School. There are groups of kids coming through without adult supervision. Business owners have been vandalized, a kid on Friday was beaten up, and passers-by are getting sworn at.”
“Eli Global gave… $100,000 to the Chatham County GOP, and some of that went to Brian Bock. Let’s ask Brian about this gift and if it will subject Chatham to scrutiny.”
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